BANGOR, Maine — The Husson University football team got off to an inauspicious start in Saturday afternoon’s home-opener against Alfred State (N.Y.).
On their first possession, the Eagles were guilty of three illegal procedure penalties and two fumbles and their punt was partially blocked.
But the defense bailed them out, making a goal-line stand early in the fourth quarter to preserve a 7-0 lead and forcing a fumble later in the quarter which led to an insurance eight-yard touchdown run by quarterback Ryan Stroud as Husson prevailed 13-0.
Husson is now 1-2 while Alfred fell to 0-3.
The defenses dominated the game as Husson held Alfred State to 141 total yards and an average of just 2.2 yards per play while the Alfred defense limited Husson to 210 total yards and 3.5 yards per play.
“Our resiliency was phenomenal,” said Husson coach Gabby Price. “The way we looked early in the game, it was as if we had never played football before. But we kept hanging in there and hanging in there and we did a lot of good things. The defense was terrific.”
Freshman running back Kyle McKinnon scored his first collegiate touchdown with a 24-yard run in the second quarter to cap a five-play, 45-yard drive.
That enabled the Eagles to take a lead into the intermission despite three lost fumbles among their five overall, an interception and five penalties for 45 yards.
Alfred State received a scintillating 52-yard run by Rasheed Williams on a third-and-28 draw play at the end of the third quarter and Williams rattled off a 15-yard run on the next play to set the Pioneers up at the Husson four yard line.
But two more Williams runs netted just one yard and, following penalties on each team, Husson freshman linebacker Logan Steward of Hampden tackled Williams for a four-yard loss. Quarterback Greg Hampton’s pass on fourth-and-goal from the eight was too far in front of his intended receiver and fell incomplete to end the threat.
“We just didn’t execute,” said Hampton.
“When you’re at the four-yard line, you’ve got to punch it in. There’s no excuse for that,” said Williams. “Husson’s defensive line was tough and they had a pretty good linebacker corps. They were the better team today. But we all gave 100 percent.”
“I remember looking at the guys in the huddle and all the guys said ‘we’ve got to get this (stop). It would be a big turning point in the game. It could seal the game for us,” said Steward.
On Alfred’s next possession, sophomore safety Joe Saccareccia forced a fumble by Dileel Bartley that was picked up by linebacker-turned-tackle Stephen Colvin and returned to the A-33 yard line.
“Joe came up and filled the pile like he was supposed to and he popped the ball out. It hit off the ground and landed in my hands,” said Colvin. “It was a great hit by Saccareccia.”
“I just put my head on the ball,” said Saccareccia.
On the ensuing drive, Stroud scampered eight yards for a first down on third-and-six from the 18 and, two plays later, he faked a handoff and kept the ball around the right side for his TD run.
“I faked it to my tailback and followed my blockers on the outside. I saw a lane and hit it,” said Stroud who praised his defense.
“It’s a great testament to our defense that we had the turnovers that we did and they still maintained a shutout,” said Stroud.
McKinnon paced Husson with 75 yards on 15 carries; Ryan Dorso had 61 on 21 carries and Stroud contributed 44 more rushing yards on 12 attempts. Stroud was 3-for-10 for 33 yards through the air.
The impressive Williams, running behind an inexperienced line, accumulated a hard-earned and game-high 115 yards on 23 carries for Alfred State. Quarterback Hampton completed just seven of 23 passes for 31 yards.
Husson’s defense was anchored by tackle Ernest Wiggins (5 unassisted tackles, three assists), inside linebackers Stephan Dance (1 & 11) and Ellis Throckmorton (2 & 6) and end Jack Goldberg (2 & 5) while Alfred’s defensive effort was led by linebackers John Garbowski (5 & 4), Rory Spain (4 & 6) and Keegan Phalen (2 & 7) along with end Nick Depofi (4 & 3).
“We said before the game we needed 11 hats on the ball, swarming,” said Throckmorton. “We needed to make big plays (and we did).”